heartburn
Health

How to treat heartburn

The discomfort of heartburn is very common but is quite easy to treat thanks to over-the-counter remedies and some lifestyle changes.

Hugely uncomfortable, and often quite painful, heartburn affects a huge amount of people in Ireland. It occurs when acid from the stomach moves up into the oesophagus (food pipe) and the throat, where it can cause discomfort and a burning sensation. Your stomach naturally produces acid to help sterilise and digest your food. Usually this acid stays in the stomach and a one-way valve allows food to enter from the food pipe. However a number of factors can cause this valve to open the other way, allowing stomach acid to escape.

Causes

1. Diet and eating habits

Being overweight is a risk factor for heartburn, so it’s important to maintain a healthy weight. Eating large meals can also cause heartburn, as overfilling the stomach can cause pressure, which results in stomach acid escaping. It can be triggered by eating certain foods that are difficult to digest because this causes your stomach to produce more acid. Fatty foods can be a factor, other triggers include citrus fruit, garlic, tomatoes and spicy foods. Coffee, chocolate and alcohol can also cause trouble as they make the valve between the oesophagus and the stomach relax, allowing stomach acid to leak into the food pipe.

2. Stress

Stress is also a trigger for heartburn and a host of other digestive complaints. When you’re stressed, the body goes into fight or flight mode, releasing adrenaline and diverting blood away from the stomach as the body prepares to deal with the ‘attack’. This can prompt digestion to slow down and the body produces more stomach acid as a result. It’s very important to manage stress levels for all sorts of health reasons. Yoga can be hugely beneficial when tackling stress.

3. Pregnancy

Pregnant women can also suffer from heartburn for a couple of reasons. Firstly the growing baby in the womb puts pressure on the stomach, pushing acid into the oesophagus. Also an increase in the hormone progesterone in pregnant women is thought to relax the valve that separates the stomach and food pipe, making it easier for stomach acid to escape.

The symptoms

Heartburn causes a burning pain in the chest behind the breastbone, and can also cause an acid taste at the back of the throat. Some people experience pain or discomfort when swallowing too. The pain is often made worse by eating and can last a number of hours. It can also be exacerbated by lying down, which is why sufferers are often advised to raise the top of the bed, so they’re sleeping on an incline.

How to treat heartburn

There are lots of over the counter remedies which can help alleviate the symptoms of heartburn. These antacids are alkaline and neutralise the acid in your stomach for a shot time. However, they can stop other medicines from being properly absorbed into your body so do talk to your pharmacist or GP if you’re on any other medication. Long-term it’s worth making diet and lifestyle changes to help minimise the problem:

  • Try to maintain a healthy weight.
  • If you smoke, quit!
  • Eat smaller meals.
  • Eat slowly.
  • Avoid trigger foods such as tomatoes, citrus fruits, peppers and spicy or fatty foods.
  • Cut down on alcohol.
  • Reduce your caffeine intake.
  • Eat at least two to three hours before going to bed.

Could it be something more serious?

Regular or constant heartburn is a common symptom of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GORD). According to the Health Service Executive (HSE) an estimated one in five people will have at least one episode of GORD a week. If you’re concerned or experience heartburn regularly it’s worth checking with your GP, just to make sure there’s nothing else going on.

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ASK LOUISE

Q My son is 18 months old and has just started saying his first words. It is an extremely exciting time in our house and my husband and I are eager to encourage his speaking as much possible. What advice would you give us on how we can foster this without bombarding and confusing him?

AThere is nothing better than hearing your baby begin to talk. All the hard work you have put in over the last two years is coming back tenfold.
Toddlers will vary significantly with ability and speed of which they talk however a guide would be about 50 words by 2 years of age. The most important thing to watch for is that your baby/toddler is cooing and babbling and begins to string sounds together like “Mama/Dada” They should have a wide range of speech sounds and like to imitate you and things they hear.
There are many ways that you can promote Speech and Language development at home:
1. Slowing down your own speech and taking time over conversations with your little one. Every day is a new experience when you are 18 months, nappy changes, bath time, baking a cake brings endless opportunity for you to interact and offer new words for them to hear and repeat. Make eye contact, smile and use exaggerated tones to keep things interesting and fun for your tot.
2. Review the toys that you have on offer to your tot and ensure that they give plenty of open ended play opportunities. Role play is a wonderful way to allow children to take the lead. Kitchens with lots of plates, cups and pots. Fill the pots with dry pasta and allow your child to cook and serve you. Playdoh, painting, gardening and sandpits are also great for allowing your child to take the lead and babble about what they are doing. Read plenty of books together and point and allow them time to answer any questions that you ask.
3. Limit screen time. Overuse of televisions and iPads do not give your child opportunity to interact in a two way manner.
4. Ask your child lots of open ended questions “What’s that?” “Where are we?” Point at things they know the answer to for boosting confidence (Car/ Car, etc.) When they don’t know the answer, explain it to them. Limit baby talk and speak clearly with good pronunciation, remember you are the teacher and they will copy you.
If you are concerned about your child’s speech and language development, be sure to speak with your GP or developmental Health Nurse. They are very skilled at understanding the difference between speech delays and spotting something that may require professional attention.
Enjoy watching their little brains absorb the world around them and listen to what they have to say. It won’t be too long before they won’t stop talking to you, asking “Why Mummy/ Daddy?” every 5 minutes….

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ASK LUCY

Q My son is 18 months old and has just started saying his first words. It is an extremely exciting time in our house and my husband and I are eager to encourage his speaking as much possible. What advice would you give us on how we can foster this without bombarding and confusing him?

AThere is nothing better than hearing your baby begin to talk. All the hard work you have put in over the last two years is coming back tenfold.
Toddlers will vary significantly with ability and speed of which they talk however a guide would be about 50 words by 2 years of age. The most important thing to watch for is that your baby/toddler is cooing and babbling and begins to string sounds together like “Mama/Dada” They should have a wide range of speech sounds and like to imitate you and things they hear.
There are many ways that you can promote Speech and Language development at home:
1. Slowing down your own speech and taking time over conversations with your little one. Every day is a new experience when you are 18 months, nappy changes, bath time, baking a cake brings endless opportunity for you to interact and offer new words for them to hear and repeat. Make eye contact, smile and use exaggerated tones to keep things interesting and fun for your tot.
2. Review the toys that you have on offer to your tot and ensure that they give plenty of open ended play opportunities. Role play is a wonderful way to allow children to take the lead. Kitchens with lots of plates, cups and pots. Fill the pots with dry pasta and allow your child to cook and serve you. Playdoh, painting, gardening and sandpits are also great for allowing your child to take the lead and babble about what they are doing. Read plenty of books together and point and allow them time to answer any questions that you ask.
3. Limit screen time. Overuse of televisions and iPads do not give your child opportunity to interact in a two way manner.
4. Ask your child lots of open ended questions “What’s that?” “Where are we?” Point at things they know the answer to for boosting confidence (Car/ Car, etc.) When they don’t know the answer, explain it to them. Limit baby talk and speak clearly with good pronunciation, remember you are the teacher and they will copy you.
If you are concerned about your child’s speech and language development, be sure to speak with your GP or developmental Health Nurse. They are very skilled at understanding the difference between speech delays and spotting something that may require professional attention.
Enjoy watching their little brains absorb the world around them and listen to what they have to say. It won’t be too long before they won’t stop talking to you, asking “Why Mummy/ Daddy?” every 5 minutes….